Take A Look Inside Facebook’s New Secret Hardware Lab


Credits: techcrunch.com
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Why would Facebook or any company need a hardware lab? Well, whenever Facebook had to test its gadgets or outsource prototyping, it was always delayed as there was no place to do these tasks. Now, Facebook’s 10-year plan involved a lot of hardware, therefore, it only made sense to build a laboratory dedicated to hardware at its Menlo Park headquarters. Here, Facebook will prototype its next generation serves, VR headsets, Internet-beaming lasers and of course, the solar drones.

Credits: techcrunch.com
5S safety system. Credits: techcrunch.com

This week, Facebook gave a group of journalists, a sneak peek of  Area 404.

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Facebook’s Head of Engineering & Infrastructure, Jay Parikh, said that the laboratory covers an area of about 22,000 square feet and is named Area 404. The lab was named after the “Not Found” error code as every time engineers wanted to prototype new hardware, the resources and space was “not found” at Facebook. So, to solve this problem, Facebook burrowed out some old offices in Menlo Park headquarters and turned them into a white, gleaming space that looks like a haven for hackers.

Credits: techcrunch.com
Credits: techcrunch.com

 

Area 404 is home to expensive, gigantic and dangerous machines and has a few rooms where Mark Zuckerberg isn’t allowed either. Facebook strongly follows the 5S system of safety which includes sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain. Each tool is labelled and put in a square box of tape.

Credits: techcrunch.com
Credits: techcrunch.com

“Our first hardware lab was a big as a desk in the old mail room” says Parikh. His personal favorite is an 10,000X magnification electron microscope. The microscope is used to inspect minuscule issues in the hardware. The construction of Area 404 began 9 months earlier and is now almost completed.

5 axis mill. Credits: techcrunch.com
5 axis mill. Credits: techcrunch.com

 

Parikh explains that Area 404 was created for 2 purposes:

  • To create a space where different hardware engineers of Facebook can get together and work on common problems.
  • To establish a state-of-the-art laboratory for hardware with equipment necessary for prototyping and fail-testing Facebook’s new gadgets and gizmos.
Surround 360 camera. Credits: techcrunch.com
Surround 360 camera. Credits: techcrunch.com

 

This will significantly reduce the amount of time it takes for Facebook to turn a conceived device into a workable prototype which can later be sent for mass production. Facebook’s Building 8 tech division, Internet.org Connectivity team, the Oculus VR squad and Facebook’s Infrastructure teams can now coordinate and work together under one roof.

What is inside the lab? Well, everything from computer-controlled 9-axis mills that design metallic prototypes to 3D design software modeling stations to an MRI scanning equipment to scrutinize devices for faults. One major part of the lab is dedicated for experimentation and the other major part is made of workshops for hardware prototyping.

Place where FB will build 360 cameras. Credits: techcrunch.com
Place where FB will build 360 cameras. Credits: techcrunch.com

What hardware will be built here?

Business Card Holders for employees with "f" as Facebook logo. Credits: techcrunch.com
Business Card Holders for employees with “f” as Facebook logo. Credits: techcrunch.com

Between the Oculus hub in Seattle and the hangar for Aquila drone in the UK, it is obvious that hardware isn’t new to Facebook. But with a dedicated Area 404, Facebook can succeed in hardware arena with the same pace as it succeeded in the arena of software.

 

What do you think about the gleaming white hardware lab by Facebook? Did you like the name?  Let us know in the comments section.

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Take A Look Inside Facebook’s New Secret Hardware Lab

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